About 8 years ago, I quit my job at a large, well known company here in Atlanta so I could stay home and just be a mom to my girls, who were entering that awkward middle school age. They were too old for daycare, but too young to stay by themselves. And they needed a driver to take them around to all their activities. During this time I also helped out my husband by doing some administrative work for our business and even working in our store for a few months.
But I also started making cake.
I’m trying to remember what kicked this all off. Because in the beginning, I really wasn’t that good. I look back at pictures of some of my first cakes and shake my head, “Oh bless your heart, Theresa. Nice try.” I made a cake for my husband’s 40th birthday party, and I made a few cakes for birthday parties for my friends’ kids. Maybe because of the cake at my hubby’s party? I’m really not sure.
I joined online Cake Decorators groups, watched tutorials, read articles and learned by doing. With each cake, my skills improved. My big thing was (and still is) the cake has to taste good, not just look good. There’s nothing more disappointing than biting into a pretty cake and the taste is just “meh.” I wanted people to like not only my cake, but also the icing. My plain white “wedding” cake recipe was the most popular, followed by strawberry. I did lots of different flavors, but if the client wanted an elaborately decorated cake, it had to be able to hold up to the weight of fondant. I did have a couple clients now and then put in orders for flavor combinations that I knew would be terrible, but hey, that’s what they asked for. Thinking back, I should have steered them in the right direction.
There were cakes I was proud of, and there were cakes I knew could have been better. But my clients and their guests always seemed happy with the cake. Most of the time, folks showed up at my house to retrieve their goods, but occasionally I was asked to go set up for a party or a wedding. I had invoices I printed out, business cards, and brochures. I wanted to make it a real business.
But I got tired. Tired of spending EVERY Friday night, up late, on my feet, in my kitchen because most of the cake orders were for Saturday morning. I got tired of my kitchen looking like a bakery all of the time, instead of a nicely decorated room in my home. I got tired of washing bowls and pans over and over, tired of wiping off powdered sugar and flour dust which coated everything. I was tired of running to the store for supplies, and I was tired of the fact that what had once been a fun hobby was turning into a chore I just didn’t want to do any more. Being one of those people who just can’t say no, I never did (unless I actually, physically could not).
At one point I decided that it was the long hours of detailed fondant work that was pushing me over the edge, so I formulated a plan to start a cupcake bakery, only doing cupcakes. No fancy cakes, or dreaded cake balls, or cookies, just cupcakes. I put together a business plan, looked for spaces to rent, and researched what all my costs would be from inventory and equipment to employees. I entered a cupcake contest hosted by a local high school, and came in 1st place in two different categories, so I could officially say my cupcakes were “Award Winning” on the signage I was designing in my head. And you know what? I determined I wouldn’t make any money. I could break even each month but there was no way to make a decent profit that would justify to me that my time was worth it. My time was (and still is) more valuable than that.
As luck would have it, my husband had some turnover in his store, and rather than hire a bunch of people, he thought it would be best for the two of us to work together. This was during the height of the recession, money was tight, and I no longer had a paycheck, so it made sense. We’d save quite a bit of money on payroll if he and I worked full time. So, I did that for a few months (then I decided to head back to the corporate world, but that is another story for another time). Because of the time spent working in our store, I no longer had time to make cakes. I was forced to start saying “No” to people. I simply didn’t have time to do it anymore. And when I went back to work with my previous employer, I had even less time.
Years have gone by, and my cake life is a thing of the past. We recently decided to move to a new home, so I cleaned out my cake closet. I tossed out old supplies, gave away some pans, donated some stuff, and packed up what remained. I kept quite a few items, just in case I needed them in the future, but right now they are packed away in a big brown box until we are ready to settle into our new home. I never took down my old Facebook page (Blondie’s Cupcake Bakery) and it still gets visitors every week, which I find funny for some reason. I guess I keep it up as a reminder of what I used to do. Sometimes I’ll see a picture of a forgotten cake and think, “I did that?” It’s also a nice way to show my pictures to folks. Every now and then, I will be in a meeting in which we have to introduce ourselves and “tell us something unique about yourself that others may not know,” so I pull up the old pictures and show off my handy work. It’s also a good reminder of why I stopped doing it: too much work!